Friday, December 24, 2010

Heartwarming Wishes

When I went to South Orange this morning to put my Christmas Cards in the mail, the pole of the big clock in the center of town caught my attention. It looked different than usually. Something was wrapped around it, looking a little messy from a distance. 

Coming closer, I found one of the most heartwarming Christmas decorations I’ve ever seen: hand made woolen scarves and items, samples with good wishes, as if to warm the cast iron pole ... and maybe time itself?

May you all find something 
to warm your heart this Christmas.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Encore" with Obstacles

As far as performing is concerned, I was ready to wind down for the year after the recital in Concord. Eagerly, I plunged into new repertoire. A call from our choir director on the last day of November provided me with an unexpected “encore”.
The choir had been hired to sing several movements of the Durufle Requiem at a memorial service that was to take place in Alice Tully Hall in New York City a week later. Since a video was going to be shown at the service, the organ had to disappear behind a large screen and could not be used.
Now, the choir would sing “At the River” by Copland, and “O beautiful for spacious skies” together with the audience. An accompanist was needed, who was also to play a SHORT Prelude and a SHORT Postlude on the piano. 
I agreed to do the job, rescheduled my students, cancelled everything I didn’t absolutely have to do, put Chopin’s F-major Ballade back on the shelf and spent hours every day reviving two selections from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. We thought they were a good choice for the solemn occasion. They take less than 10 minutes to perform, but every little detail in articulation and voicing makes a difference, and every mishap sticks out like a sore thumb.
On the day of the event, I arrived early to ensure that I would get a chance to try out the piano. The concert grand stood huddled in the back corner of the stage. At first I didn’t even notice that it was positioned the wrong way, the bass facing the audience,”so that I could see the choir director”, one of the stage managers explained. 
A small reading light had been positioned on the music stand. It barely illuminated the entire score, and the keyboard disappeared in the shadows. “This is an event, not a concert,” was the reply to our request for more light. During rehearsal with the choir, the reading light went out altogether. Even though I was assured this was not going to happen again, I asked my page turner to, please, find a flashlight, just in case.
Apparently, there had been some miscommunication, regarding the length of the program. Could I play for half an hour, was the question, so that there would be some music while people were walking in and out ? It’s possible that someone even said no one would be listening - a feeble attempt to boost my confidence ? 
An hour before the beginning of the service, I found that the Preludes and Fugues I had performed in Concord 2 weeks earlier were still in good shape. I practiced and timed the pieces. A student from the Juilliard School would be hired to fill in the rest. “Why are you doing this in the first place”, a tiny voice asked in the back of my mind. Well, I guess there’s nothing like a challenge...
Pleasant Jazz Tunes wavered through the hall as it began to fill with people. After 20 minutes, our choir director shooed the pianist off stage, so I could strike up a more serious tone with Bach. 
There’s nothing wrong with putting your concentration to the test. If you can keep your mind on the Fugue in g-sharp minor from Book II of the Well-Tempered Clavier while people are engaged in a conversation a few feet away from you, it speaks for the quality of your preparation.
Performing on the street pianos at Lincoln Center in the summer had been a good preparation for this task. The major differences between the occasions were the concert grand I got to play this time, and the pay check. Regardless of that, there was something about the street pianos and their off colored, sticking, sticky keys, and the sounds of the music mixing with the random sounds of the city that felt more honest and authentic. 
The ways in which music can touch people’s hearts are mysterious and often a matter of chance. Someone came back stage and thanked us afterwards. Beyond conventions and representation, this had been a memorial service, and at least music was given a chance to bring comfort to those who were grieving the loss of someone they loved.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Facing the Fear

Facing demons is nothing new on the way to a performance. Tapping deep into the emotional content of the music also puts me in touch with the loose ends in my current emotional life - things that don’t feel quite right, but I don’t know why; things I’m not comfortable with but have decided to live with for the time being; nightmares of the past, triggered by events in the present. 
Plagued by panic attacks, meltdowns and sleepless nights I had been ready to cancel the upcoming performance at the Concord Community Music School, which had been my work place for seven years. As much as I was looking forward to reconnecting with former students, with colleagues and friends, the fact that I would be playing for them put a considerable amount of pressure on the situation. Supported by good friends, I had decided to follow through, especially after a conversation with my teacher had helped me to better understand the personal reasons behind my fears. 
I had survived a tryout, but it hadn’t done much to boost my confidence. It didn’t make sense. I was well prepared, I had lived with the three Preludes and Fugues for a considerable time, I had performed the romantic music on the program only two weeks earlier at Amsterdam House. I was playing that part of the program from memory this time, but I felt secure and convinced that it was a good decision
When things are this bad, there is usually something wrong with my practicing. The thought had occurred to me before, but I had not been able to figure out what it was. I went on my Sunday morning walk, and spent some thoughts on the practicing I had done the previous week. I had tried to pay equal attention to all pieces on the program, and I had played it through every day. 
Suddenly, I had an idea. The program was almost an hour playing time, and what scared me most were the three turbulent minutes of Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude. I  love the piece and had continued to work on it ever since I played it for the children at my friend’s school in the spring. Over time, I had mastered it to a point that seemed to justify a public performance, but it was something I had never done before. The concert date only a week away, it felt like reaching for a level I didn’t own yet.  
Was it reasonable to put everything else aside, and spend the greater part of my practice time on the etude? The shortest piece on the program? If everything else went well, people might even forget if I screwed it up! Or should I take it off the program?
Fear isn’t reasonable, so I put everything else aside. Once more, I took the demon apart, dissected it, looked at every detail. I practiced short sections, two measures at a time, established “starting points”, played hands alone from memory, and corresponding sections back to back. I refreshed my awareness of the harmonic structure of the piece - it does make me feel better to know what key I’m playing in, and where I am on the map.
After just one practice session, my confidence got a boost. What’s the second-scariest piece on the program, I asked myself? 
When I performed in Concord last Sunday, the etude still cast its shadow over the rest of the program. I had to remind myself to breathe, and my mind was hanging on to the music for dear life, trying to fend off intruding thoughts, especially the mean little voice that keeps telling me I can’t do this. Surprisingly, my hands did their job, as if they hardly noticed the struggle.  
“The Chopin rocked, not because of your 'fingers', but because of your 'soul' ", wrote one of my former students enthusiastically. What do we learn from this? You’ve got to face your demons if you don’t want them to rule your life.           

Monday, November 8, 2010

A reason to perform

After the last writing class, our teacher Mark Matousek sent the following poem by Stephen Dunn to us:

A Secret Life
Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearing, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.
Reading the poem made me think of performing, and how it connects to the secret world:
In a perfect world, wouldn’t you wish to find 
just a few kindred spirits 
with whom you could share your secret world-
or at least parts of it
without being hurt.
That’s why I perform.
Those who understand will get the message
and those who don’t,
can’t hurt me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Music or Memory IV - looking back

The last note of “Liebestraum” faded, and Natalie and I made our last bow, exactly at 3:30 last Sunday. We hadn’t timed our program of Folk Tales from the Rhineland and Romantic Piano Music exactly, and we were both a little nervous about that. But it had come out perfectly, and we were looking at a lot of applause and smiling faces, in spite of the grim spectres the stories had conjured up, as would be appropriate for Halloween . Several residents of Amsterdam House talked to us and asked us to come back; one of the visitors even summarized her impressions in the following lovely note:
What a wonderful afternoon! You both work beautifully together. I’m here to visit my husband. The stories were absorbing - what a good actress - speaker you are! And the classical music so enjoyable.....
Thank you for everything. You are appreciated.”
In spite of that, I was completely exhausted after the concert. It’s not just the playing that counts, but the circumstances as well. Taking the bus at 10:30, to allow for plenty of time, in case we hit traffic on the road. Picking up some lunch on the way, then heading for the venue, to have enough time to set up, do a sound check with the microphone, get used to the piano. 
Visiting a retirement home naturally means to touch base with declining health and the last stage of life. The kind of energy you sense is very different from that of a concert hall, and the perspective of an approaching performance heightens sensitivity, making the impressions even stronger. 
The “Green Room” was the best ever: trees and fresh air, and what a view!
View of the Cathedral of St John the Divine from the garden at Amsterdam House
I was glad that I had visited the premises before, and tried the piano so I knew what I was getting into. I knew I would have to sit higher than I usually do - but I didn’t remember it was that high! The restless spirit of a long deceased piano tuner must have visited the venue well in advance and screwed up the lowest c- octave - the lowest note was about a fourth of a step off. I needed it repeatedly, and it added a real touch of Halloween to the sound. 

Fortunately, I was ready for that.  Spending an hour trying to coax sounds out of an instrument that aren’t really there made me even more grateful for the instrument I have at home, and wonder whether the pianists who play in concert halls on beautiful concert grands appreciate the luxury they are enjoying. 
Under these circumstances, I was glad to play from the score, to have something outside myself to hang on to, and it helped me to stay focussed.

And yet, the next day, it was the greatest relief to put the music away and play the repertoire from memory. It adds a touch of freedom I’ve rarely been able to achieve when playing with the score. Something shifts in my brain the moment I take my eyes off the score and look at the keyboard, with nothing to follow but the music I hear in my mind.     

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Soap Bubbles in Central Park

Fall is here

Farewell to summer

with Giant Soap Bubbles

 from Central Park.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Music or Memory III - Transcending the Score

“ I think you are onto something.”, my friend Gladys Odegard commented on my last blog entry - she lives in Canada and has been teaching and performing for many years. “ The immense amount of time and energy it takes to commit a score to memory is beyond belief and the older you get the harder it is.  Why not be happy to perform with a safety net and know when you are looking and when you are not.  Anxiety severs all connections with the music.”
“The score can do that, too,” I want to add. As a child and as a teenager, I never played from memory. I didn’t start it until I was in college, and playing from memory was required. Nobody really told me how to approach the task, so, at some point, I would just put away the music, see how far I got, and the rest was a lot of repeats. I managed (with a few exceptions, Bach among them), and memory slips were not a big issue. Since I didn’t know how it worked, though, I was terrified. I knew one thing: the moment I looked down at the keyboard, I had a good chance to crash.
Seymour Bernstein was the first teacher who invited me to look at the keyboard, e.g. when we changed hand divisions. Then, one day while I was memorizing, I realized that all I needed to do was visually memorize the patterns of black and white keys, and see them pass in my mind’s eye like a movie. The method has proved reliable, and, at this point, even replaces the image of the score which I used to see in my mind. Of course, keyboard patterns do not replace either aural - , or motor-memory, they only support it - but the beautiful thing is: they allow me to be “in the music”, while the score used to bring up a lot of unwelcome “thought” distractions. 
My musician friends have often reacted slightly puzzled and confused, when I reported this experience. The first person who understood what I was talking about was my writer friend, Mary Ashcliffe. Like me, Mary is a fan of intricate knitting patterns. She called my attention to the fact that pattern memory or memory of images is a right-brain activity, while, at least for me, decoding a score is a left brain activity, involving a lot of analysis and "thinking" - or that’s how it used to be.
During the summer, when I was practicing Preludes and Fugues, which I don’t usually memorize, I suddenly discovered that I was able to do this without falling back into “thinking” - as if something “clicked” and said : “These are just signs for sounds! Stop thinking, you know the piece, all you have to do is play and listen - or, more precise, listen, and play.” 
At about the same time, I noticed that I was finally able to transpose by ear. I memorized one of the Czerny 8-bar exercises op. 821 every day and transposed it into all 12 keys. Of course, it’s not perfect, and I don’t know if I could still do it if someone was watching me, but by myself, I can do it, just listening to the sound in my mind, and imagining what it looks like on the keyboard. I had tried to do this about 5 years ago, and found it almost impossible. It was like pulling teeth, and eventually, I gave up - I simply didn’t have the time. 
In order to play successfully with the score and “be in the music”, you have to be able to transcend the score, get past the “decoding” of symbols, the playing instructions. The score becomes nothing but a written representation of the sound. While I’ve always been a good “reader”  and sightreader, it has taken me until now to “transcend” the score.
I have the impression that it takes most students a long time to come to the point where they can “transcend” the score - if they get there at all. Once you know the piece, it can be a lot easier to put the score away and trust your keyboard orientation. Black and white keys are what they are, they never change names or places, and in that respect, they are a lot more reliable than musical notation. 
Just this week, I had a discussion about that with one of my adult students, who is a very good “ear-player”. She had observed that it is very hard for her to play with the music, and “hear” and “feel” it as intensely as she does when she plays from memory. We simply agreed that she is going to perform from memory for the time being, but if we are going to approach the issue from both ends, and she also practices playing with the music, eventually, the ends will come together.
Having observed many students, I am quite convinced that the people who are more comfortable playing by ear than with the music intuitively “organize” the keyboard visually. They may not even be conscious of that themselves. 
When I teach young beginners, we usually start off playing familiar tunes by ear, on the black keys - or in B - major, F-sharp - or is it G-flat major? , at first with one finger. Who cares how it’s written! It is important to me that they hear and find their way around the keyboard before they start to read, in order to prevent the reading from being mechanical, without connection to the ear.
When I started to play the piano, I was not taught that way. My mother had apparently taught me to play songs since a very young age, but once lessons started, I never ever played anything by ear again, or improvised, or played without music. While I have no memory of my very early experiences at the piano, I do remember very well that having to play without looking at the keyboard and my hands felt as if someone had pulled the rug from under my feet. At that time, I started “thinking” while I played, and after a while, I got so used to it that I couldn’t stop it any more.
It seems to me that many adult players have been taught like that as children, in order to develop their feeling for the keyboard early on. While some people have that skill naturally, most have to train it. Since pianists have to read a lot of notes, it is an important skill, but “keyboard” skills have to be developed along with it, if not earlier. Otherwise, chances are that the result is a “deaf reader”, feeling his or her way around the keyboard, but disconnected from the music, sometimes to an extent that makes the music sound as if it were a foreign language a person can read, but not understand.  

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Music or Memory II - a Message from the Composer

First of all, I have to make a confession: Once I’ve memorized a piece, I don’t always follow the advice of people who are wiser than I am, and stay in touch with the score. I mainly use the score to learn the piece, but once that’s done, it tends to get in my way. I get easily distracted by the part of the music that is “playing instructions”, or by comments that I’ve written into the score, and find it much easier to focus on the sound looking at the keyboard and listening to the music in my mind.  

Of course, I have the music on the music stand when I practice - most of the time -, and I refer to it to verify details when I need to, but I hardly ever “read” the entire piece. Now, the decision to play the upcoming “Halloween Program” with the music requires me to do just that.

A week into the project, I’ve made an interesting discovery: The score is inviting me to experiment - with the polyphony in Schumann’s music, for example, trying out different ways to voice a theme, sometimes doing it differently each time I play the piece. I take more time with rubatos than I would dare, if I were relying on my memory alone. It’s almost like a fresh start. Of course, I also found the inevitable wrong notes...
I am beginning to realize that my playing from memory was “memory” in the literal sense - something from the past, that I relied on every time I played the piece. Going back to the score puts me back in touch with the composer, and I’m getting some interesting new ideas. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Music or Memory

After a little break on the blog during the last weeks of summer, the school year is up and running, and the next performance is on the horizon.
Last year, when I moved to Maplewood, I made a couple of calls in search of opportunities to play. Amsterdam House, a nursing home in NYC provides many musical programs for its residents. I had played there before, and they had one performance date open: Sunday, October 31st, Halloween. Figuring that I had a year to come up with an idea for a program that would fit the occasion, I took the date.
The program will feature piano music by Schumann, Chopin and Liszt, and a selection of Hero Tales and Legends from the Rhineland, where I grew up. The tales are rather grim: people selling their souls to the devil, dancing skeletons, knights disappearing on the crusades and lonely maidens left behind. What else is to be expected on Halloween? 
In the 19th century, when the music was written, people felt very much attracted by the dark and eerie, and tales like the ones I chose inspired composers to write music. 
I find it hard to split concentration between speaking and playing. So, I’m glad my friend Natalie Lebert, who is an actress, will do the reading. The question left for me to decide was whether to play with the music, or from memory.
Playing for people who are struggling with health issues or dementia can be quite different from playing in a regular concert setting. There may be some coming and going during the program. It is possible that people react to the music physically or hum along. 
The last time Natalie and I performed there, an old lady in a wheelchair next to the piano kept tapping her foot in rhythm to the music. Her caretaker told me later that she was going to be 102 years old the next month. I thought it was great that she was at the concert and reacting to the music, but I’m not sure my memory will hold up with ad libitum participation from audience members.
While I have not been able to train my cat to turn pages, Cappuccina takes it on herself to provide distraction here at home, so that I can test my ability to stay focussed. Can I keep playing while my mind wonders whether she has just shut off the recording machine when she jumped on it, or whether she is sitting on the microphone? 

Can I play the Revolutionary Etude with a cat on my lap? The results were not too convincing, and finally, I decided to save myself a great deal of performance anxiety and put the music up on the music stand. 

Playing this kind of music with the score has its own challenges. It was clearly composed with the keyboard in mind, and watching your hands while moving through fast passages and suicide leaps feels more secure. If you play with the score, you have to exactly know where you look at your hands and where you look at the music. 
“Oh, I’ll just put up the music for the performance”, inexperienced students often say. It is one of the most dangerous traps to fall into. Not accustomed to finding their way around the keyboard without looking at their hands, they’ll take their eyes off the music, only to find that they’ve lost their place on the page when they look up again. Often enough, that’s the moment where everything stops - the worst nightmare of every performer.    
Frankly speaking, I find it much more comforting to look at the keyboard, while I play, at black and white keys that always remain the same, than at a page crammed with notes and full of sharps, flats, double sharps, double flats and natural signs. Not only were the romantic composers drawn to the dark and eerie, they were also very much attracted by the keys with many flats and sharps, chromatic passages and every possible way to move around the circle of 5ths.
Of course, you don’t “read” the music, when you play with the score, at least not in the sense of figuring out what you have to play. You hopefully know that by the time of the performance, and the score only serves as a visual support. Nevertheless, I’ve often noticed that my brain has a tendency to fall back into “decoding” mode under the pressure of a performance, asking questions like “Is that a black key, or a white key?” while I’m playing - and the only way out of that is to know the answer to the question. 

I’m glad I have a couple of weeks to work on it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Now" is the only time you've got

My tryout for the upcoming recital was a success
  • considering that there is never enough time, no matter how early you start to prepare
  • considering that the program is always longer than you think
  • considering that I didn’t experience any surprises: I ran into memory issues and technical difficulties exactly where I expected them.

    Practicing only gets you to a certain point. Beyond that, you have to practice performing by playing for people. Even recording isn’t the same.

    This experience, which I’ve had repeatedly, was hovering in the back of my mind during my next practice session after the tryout. I went over the sections of my program that needed attention. Then, I did another run through the entire program.

    The recording machine was on, no stops, no back tracking, keep going no matter what happens - and face the truth, listening to it later on. That’s the deal for a run-through.

    Suddenly, while I was playing, I caught myself making mental notes of the places that I would need to go over at the next practice session. How about fixing it right now? The second subject of Schumann’s piece “Soaring” needs more finger activity. I know that. I’ve been practicing that, waiting for it to become a skill I can rely on when I perform the piece.

    But how about doing the best I can with what I have, right now! That’s the difference between practicing and performing. You don’t get a second shot. What you get now is all you have - and being aware of that, maybe I can do better than I thought. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Workoholic's Weekend

The problem with an artistic profession and loving your work is that you’re never really “off.” There is no clear distinction between what’s work and what’s not work, because everything you do can potentially be used towards creative projects. 
Nevertheless, I had  promised myself to take weekends off during the month of August. Go to the city and walk the streets, watch people, walk in the park and sit by the lake - it’s one of the places - outside of the bus - where I can actually sit for hours and do nothing. 

“I do hope you will compose another story suite at some time,” writes Seymour Bernstein, my teacher. “Good to hear from you, and I hope you’re writing, my friend” writes Mary Ashcliffe, who leads the writers’ group in Concord. I’m on vacation, you guys, at least temporarily - of course I have a writing assignment, and I’m presenting “The Sheep that Came to School” at the South Orange Library on Tuesday, and I’m playing at a house concert on September 1st, and the studio policies need to be revised, and a couple of things organized for the next school year, and a couple of things cleaned up and put away from last school year...

Saturday morning saw me practicing “The Sheep”. When I wrote it, I thought my students were ready for a challenge, and now I’m facing the challenge myself. It was really time to take care of the studio policies, and by the time I was done with “The Sheep” it was a bit late for the bus and the park, and I found nothing wrong with a quiet afternoon and evening at home. 

I was getting a little nervous about the pieces from Schumann’s op. 12, though, which I'm planning to play at the house concert. Two of them are new, they can do with a little work - but yesterday afternoon was not a good time. While I couldn’t focus, it occurred to me that the concert is only 3 1/2 weeks away, and I haven’t scheduled any tryouts yet. Once you get past the 3 week mark, time really speeds up. My brain wasn’t really functioning, and I’m probably getting old and I’m starting to loose it, and pretty soon I won’t be able to think at all, my brain is going to shut down altogether and that will be the end of it. It’s a pretty scary thought. 

Just at that moment, a faint smell of charcoal and roasting meat came wavering through the kitchen window. A glance into the back yard showed the landlord’s brand new grill steaming away, with enough sausage and steaks to feed the entire street (I’m vegetarian). The family was gathering forces for a party - the third Saturday in a row! They must be competing for this year’s “King of the Garden Grill” award. “Umph, umph, umph” said the stereo. So much for quiet time. Subduing the urge to throw solid objects into the back yard, I closed all the windows demonstratively, which would raise the temperature in my 2nd floor apartment by another couple of degrees. 

Anger hurts yourself the most, but how do you get over it? Physical labor was all I could think of, and I had been wanting to move the shelf that accommodates my music for a while. The music is arranged in alphabetical order, and of course, everything had to be taken down and put back up to move the shelf. It didn’t exactly make me happy, but at least I was doing something useful. 

A walk through the neighborhood confirmed what I already knew: Maplewood sidewalks are an obstacle course after dark, because the roots of the trees have raised the concrete slabs the sidewalks are made of.  

Fortunately I remembered Seymour’s latest posting on You Tube on getting home, which I hadn’t listened to yet. It is a recording of a concert for children he played in 1958, in collaboration with ventriloquist Paul Winchell. It’s a delight, and just in case you need something to save your day, the links are below.

Today, I kept my promise to myself and spent the afternoon in the park, doing nothing. Action was provided by a violinist who played Bach, a big, black Persian cat who was taken for a walk on a leash, and a dachshound who, on arrival, was being transported in a pillowcase.  

Sunday afternoon in Central Park

The Bulldog's Background

Putting the pieces together, and looking through my note book after the writing workshop, I had to laugh out loud, when I realized how the bulldog poem had “materialized”:
Friday: A member of the writing group I attend sends some very sad poems. I wished I could make her laugh.
Friday evening: First encounter with the teacher of the writing workshop. He is very extrovert, intense, and not quite my vibe.
Saturday morning: On the way to the workshop, I see a bulldog who is tied to the door of a coffee shop and walks in when the door opens. 
Writing workshop, morning session: The teacher gets in the way of my creative vibes. He talks too much. It’s all about dreaming, very introspective and personal, and I say to my friend I feel tempted to make up something really silly. My friend and I get reprimanded for talking. She doesn’t like it, either. I try to withhold judgement, give it a chance.
Lunchbreak: We’re supposed to look out for something during our lunch break that will inspire our writing. My friend and I agree we don’t like the workshop and would rather be home. Our conversation drifts off to e-harmony and my friend’s chances of getting married. Time is up before we know it. She decides to skip the afternoon session. I have to stay, I’m classroom assistant.
Writing workshop, afternoon session:
We’re asked to share our inspiration from lunch break. With nothing to share, I offer the morning’s bulldog event (who cares when it happened). Someone else reports a bulldog event, a bulldog puppy chasing a shoe - this idea made it into the poem.
The session gets worse. The teacher doesn’t ask me to share a dream - in which case I’d have to make up something real quick - but we also enact dreams, and I am asked to “float” through the room, enacting the color blue, from a dream someone else shared. Fortunately, the dream was multi-colored, and so I’m not the only person floating around. I’d hate to do a solo on this one.
We learn about Graham Greene, who once had a nervous breakdown, and all the therapist asked of him was to report a dream at 11 am every morning. When Greene ran out of dreams, he started to make things up.
The workshop reaches the stage: “In one of my former lives, when I was best friends with Shakespeare.... Every time I enter the library, Stevenson’s spirit talks to me from the third bookshelf on the right...”
I begin to fill my notebook with abstract art, and write down random quotes from the discussion. 
“You must speak the role you play.”
T I B S, T I B S - I try to draw 3- dimensional letters. The abbreviation stands for: This Is Bull Sh... (excuse me! ). I don’t dare write it out, because we sit in a circle, and what if he goes around and catches the classroom assistant....
Earlier on, we have been asked to express our life’s purpose in one statement (good grief, not here..! ) and I have committed to truth and authenticity. I’m not sure I would have the courage to stand up for it in this situation - it’s not worth it.
I make an effort to reconstruct from memory the drawing of a cat I saw on a light switch a couple of days before. It comes out slightly different, though pretty good.
More quotes. Sometimes, I can’t write fast enough, and write down whatever I hear at the moment, or make up my own comments (cursive)
“Free flow - don’t be controlling when you talk to the other side” You just never know...
“ Real is what works - Jung”
“Caesar feared the woman seers who went up in the trees” and dissolved into thin air like a spirit ( 3 arrows darting upward) online!
We share, we have a discipline practice.”
“Could any of this play out in the future?” I sure hope not!
“It’s very good for self study - some dreams just don’t deliver, no matter what you do -’you just get very emotional and shove them in the trash can”
The Big Brown Bulldog sat on the floor.....

The line suddenly appeared in my mind, and once I had written it down, the rhythm and the memory of the scene, which went through my mind like a video, just pulled me along. We had 15 minutes to finish a work on a topic of our choice, and the bulldog persisted. I shared the poem, earning the appreciation of the group and the teacher: “What a delight. You appear so serious, and then you come up with this humorous poem.”
I don’t do a lot of silly stuff. Maybe this was a message from the “other side”, telling me to nourish and further develop my funny bone.